Pollination and what it means to you!
Surely everyone knows that bees and flowers go together. We see wild bees on our unkempt lawn, or on raspberry bushes, or even on budding trees in the spring. However, these days we seem to find less and less of them. These fuzzy pollinators seem to be in decline worldwide as studies are showing, but why? And why are they so important?
To get a grasp on this problem, understanding pollination is the key! Pollination is about fertilization: it’s about sex. Male flowers must reach female flowers with their “pollen” in order for a female flower to reproduce. This connection creates seeds, seeds that are often hidden within a fruit (like apples or a strawberries) or within a vegetable (like squashes or cucumbers), creating food for larger species such as humans. A seed, as we all know, will sow in the ground and become a new flower, thus closing the loop. So the reason that bees (or pollinators) are so important is because they act as little “Cupids” that facilitate pollen transfer from flower to flower. The equation then becomes simple: no bees, no seeds, so no new flowers. But also: no bees, no fruits and veggies. This is why bees are so important, especially for us.
Something fun to note is that pollinators feed off of pollen and nectar that flowers produce, as a somewhat symbolic reward for the crucial work they perform. However, when flowers are laced with pesticides, bees ingest these chemicals directly, and are often poisoned. One of the main reasons for the decline in bee populations worldwide is due to pesticides. When the crops we rely on for fruit and vegetables are laced with pesticides, they become lethal for bees, meaning that the reproductive chain is broken. Other reasons for pollinator decline are associated to mono-culture (only one food source), non-native pests (that compete with or wipe out bees) and climate change (offsetting bloom timing).
So how can we do something about this?
At Alvéole, a social enterprise concerned with beekeeping, they have decided to bring bees to the city. Cities have become tremendous safe-havens for pollinators due to their ban on pesticides (no poisonous flowers). There is also a huge floral diversity (which means a balanced diet) compared to your typical mono-culture on a farm. Cities are also the reason so much stress is put on farms to produce so much food, so to produce food right where it is consumed is vital to redefining our food system. Urban agriculture, thus, needs urban beekeeping.
Worldwide, there are upwards of 20 000 different species of bees that we know of, and locally, there are 300 species of bees in the GTA, not to mention the countless butterflies and moths that live among us.
- Your small actions can make a difference whether you:
- • Plant a bee-friendly garden using hardy perennials such as Lavender, Russian sage, Milkweed, Coreopsis, Monarda, Hisop, New-England Aster, Salvia, Mint, and the list goes on!
- • Let your lawn grow dandelions and clover so that they become sources of food (i.e. nectar and pollen) for pollinators.
- • Eat local organic as much as possible to avoid pesticide use.
- • Support urban agriculture by attending workshops and buying local produce.
- • Use a beekeeping service where a professional beekeeper tends to a hive on your property.